A lawyer for the women who sued Allina Health for sexual harassment blasted U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen on Friday for making it a campaign issue against his Democratic opponent, Dean Phillips.
Phillips served on the Allina board of directors from 2005-11. A new Paulsen TV ad calls Phillips "shady" and charges that he "did nothing" to combat the harassment.
Lori Peterson, a lawyer who specializes in civil rights and represented seven women who filed the lawsuit against Allina in 2007, released a statement Friday saying Phillips had nothing to do with the litigation.
"No allegations were made about Phillips and he had no involvement in this matter. In fact, I'd never even heard of him until this election campaign started," she said.
Paulsen represents Minnesota's Third Congressional District, comprising the western suburbs. Phillips, a philanthropist and business owner, is giving Paulsen a serious challenge in one of the closest watched U.S. House races in the country. Democrats need a gain of 23 districts around the country to take control of Congress.
Paulsen campaign manager John-Paul Yates said, "Phillips says he knew nothing about these allegations despite the fact they were widely published in the Star Tribune. It is clear Dean Phillips is either lying or was a negligent member of the board."
Phillips' campaign manager Zach Rodvold released a statement, saying "Ms. Peterson's statement speaks for itself, and if Congressman Paulsen had any decency he'd take down the ad and apologize."
Peterson condemned Paulsen for the ad: "It is an outrage for Paulsen to launch negative and false personal attacks against his opponent that drag these seven survivors into a political campaign for his own benefit. Paulsen should be ashamed."
Peterson said she has not met Phillips nor donated to his campaign but came forward out of anger that her clients were being used in a political campaign. She declined further comment.
Bill George, former CEO of Medtronic and board chairman of Allina, condemned the ad on social media for "falsely accusing" board members of wrongdoing.
"Using community board members as pawns in politics downgrades community service and Twin Cities unity as well as harming one of our most distinguished organizations," George wrote on Facebook.